Review: ERASED

Murder mystery, the butterfly effect and the bonds between people = a really unique show.

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The Lowdown:

Show: ERASED

Studio/years aired: A-1 Pictures, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Once again, a recommendation was made to pick up a show, and so, laden with high expectations of a promising watch, this critic is happy to report that it was indeed an excellent watch. ERASED, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi as it is known in Japan, is a thriller of a ride, with an unusual time-travel/butterfly effect mechanic and a murder mystery that is 15 years in the making at the time the story begins.

ERASED has a character driven narrative that is matched by a superbly paced story that keeps flowing at an appreciable rate with the constantly shifting turn of events in the show. You don’t sense that a moment is wasted, something that is further reflected in Satoru- the main protagonist- as he seeks to unravel the mystery of a horrific string of murders from his childhood and discover the true killer behind them. The desperation in this case, adds to the narrative tension in a very positive way that keeps the viewer engaged in the story that unfolds.

The most unique mechanic about this show, and Satoru though, is something called “Revival,” where he is able to somehow jump back in time, but under only very specific conditions to prevent a fatal incident. According to the character, these normally had been short incidences between 1-5 minutes back, but for the main story of ERASED, Satoru is sent all the way back to 1988 as a 10 year old, which sounds conceptually crazy (and it is), but is just works. This show is probably the second or third time that any sort of time travel plot worked for me in animation, the first being Steins;Gate (which I have a review of here). What’s most curious is that upon being reverted to being a kid again, Satoru retains all of his memories and knowledge from his lived life up to the point of his Revival leap, meaning that he actually has the mind of a late 20 year old man when he makes said jump, which make for both some funny and insightful banter, plus a sleuthing mind that no normal 10 year old could hope to have.

Saying more on this mechanic or the reasons for Satoru’s large Revival jump would be tantamount to spoilers, but both his adult and kid versions play major roles in this tale. This fact is reflected in the OP’s visuals, where it opens in on a movie theater, which both the adult Satoru and his kid self enter. This theater in turn turns out to be the “film reel” of his life- and so, memories are held inside his mind like a constantly flowing movie, which is also represented visually in the show as well. In this way, he is also able to tell what changed from the original timeline or event if something shifted as a result of his actions…

The level of detail in this show is very good, as you’d hope from a solid mystery. Both real and false leads are planted for the viewer to decide on, and even if the answer for certain questions may come quickly, there is often a nagging doubt about whether one’s suspicions are right in this show up until the moment of truth for so many ideas and theories. Accompanying the intriguing setups is the cast to match, which is delved into below in the grading section, and a lot of key lines that often have mirrors in the narrative if you pay attention closely enough.

Overall, ERASED was simply flat-out enjoyable in the way a great story should be, with excellent execution, interesting characters and a story that lives up to the hype and the best of its genre. It’s a bit of a crazy ride, but this is a good crazy, and I suspect plenty of people, not just the murder mystery crowd, will love it if they haven’t seen it already. As far as I see it, this is a great representation of what modern anime can be capable of, and by extension, an adaptation.


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D animation, computer-shaded, with slight bits of 3-D thrown in. ERASED is a story that understands its medium well, and uses it in its storytelling to great effect.  4.75/5 points.

Characterization: As talked about, Satoru Fujinuma is the main protagonist of this tale. A struggling mangaka, or manga artist, his uneventful existence in the present (which is 2006 in this show) is interrupted by a series of unexpected and tragic events that reopen the wounds of a brutal crime spree that erupted around him 15 years ago. As a result, the Revival Satoru experiences is in response to try and fix those events long ago, and so alter the course of history.

Within that path for Satoru, there are several important characters between the past and present that have implications within ERASED’s storyline.

Kayo Hinazuki is one of the victims of a mysterious serial killer on the loose in 1988. Shown as a loner and an introvert, Kayo’s off-putting demeanor is actually in part the product of an abusive mother and by extension, an unstable home life. (SPOILER): She is the character young Satoru attempts to change the fate of when Revival sends him back to 1988, and in the process, attempts to give a young girl hope for a future and happiness. (She’s also the girl in the picture for this review.)

In the present, Airi Katagiri is Satoru’s co-worker at a part time job he holds at a pizza place. Bright, curious and inquisitive, she takes an interest to the introverted protagonist and ultimately proves to be a reliable friend, even believing in Satoru when no one else would as events unfolded. A high school girl with long brown hair and a slim figure, Satoru’s mom “believes he has a chance with her” though her son isn’t buying it.

Speaking of which, Sachiko Fujinuma was an ace reporter and also an ace mother for her only son. Sharp on her feet with a quick wit but also an unwavering dedication to help her son in life, she proves to be a smart, unflappable woman with big hopes for Satoru no matter what. Her ability to find the truth is something that was passed onto her son, and so for her, she notices all the little details around her, good or bad.

Also of note in the past is Kenya, Satoru’s best friend from childhood (who in the dub at least shares the same VA that did dubbed Gon Freecss and Ryuko Matoi, Erica Hernandez). He’s a smart kid who’s quick on the uptake and mature beyond his years in many aspects, though noticeably flustered if he perceives anyone to be ahead of him at something complex.

There is also the main villain of this show, but those who have seen Erased know what a spoiler that is, and those who haven’t seen it ought to discover the big bad. This individual is definitely a solid antagonist no doubt- a hitman who leaves no trace of their misdeeds if it can be helped.

Finally, there is a solid supporting cast around these characters as the show unfolds, both past and present. Everyone fits in nicely, and the character development is superb, and right at the center of the narrative. Strong characters always lend themselves to a great production, and this is very much the case in this show. 5/5 points.

Story: A strong character base lends itself to the actual narrative of ERASED, which is a thrilling case of murder mystery meets corrective time travel. Indeed, this anime blends two genre aspects together seamlessly and in doing so, creates a thoroughly engaging experience from start to finish that leaves you guessing the details at each turn and always intrigued as to what the next move and eventually the endgame shapes up to be. Truly superb. 5/5 points.

Themes: There’s a lot to unpack here, but the central theme of ERASED in a word, is “relationships.” There’s a lot placed into the worth of good family and friends, and always having someone who will be there at your side, even when the chips are down. There’s also a powerful message about having the courage and confidence of doing what is right even in the fact of fear and the uncertainty of damning failure if things go awry, and the persistence to dig into one’s own self to go beyond what they thought possible in a pressure-filled situation. 4.25/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A show that knows how to maximize its shocking impacts when they happen. This isn’t a show that has “excesses” when it comes to its use of any sort of violence, which in turn maximizes the effect on the viewer. A lot of credit as well to a well conceived opening and ending themes and the graphics to match. 5/5 points.

Total: 23.5/25 (94%): A gripping tale that combines high drama, compelling characters, a well paced and interesting narrative, along with a good application of a difficult concept in time travel makes for an amazing show in this case. A high recommendation from this writer!


Like what you see? Are you a fan of ERASED or totally new to this series? Leave a comment!

Review: Sweetness and Lightning

A surprisingly sweet slice-of-life with a dash of warmth and a pinch of reality.

The Lowdown:

Show: Sweetness and Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma)

Studio/years aired: TMA Entertainment, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Consider this show and its review the unexpected surprise of my year so far in animation. I wound up stumbling upon the opening song of this series, and found its distinct, upbeat and cheery demeanor infectious, so I I checked out the first episode and the rest is history. Sweetness and Lightning is quite a pleasant watch, so it’s a pleasure to share it with those who have not discovered it yet and for those who have, you may in fact share the same sentiment.

Originally a 2016 release, this show is fairly niche so I’m not holding my breath for a dub two years on, but it is an excellent representation of the “slice of life” genre. It’s not over-the top visual humor and skits like a Nichijou, or even something like Lucky Star, but instead is its own unique production, following the story of a young widowed teacher and his daughter as they navigate their lives, which in turn is given meaning by the friends they make and the cooking they learn to do over the course of this show.

One of the aspects of this show that truly stood out to me was Kōhei Inuzuka- the single father who is tasked with raising his energetic only daughter- Tsumugi- after the sudden death of his wife, something that happened off-screen and before the events of the show. Balancing his role as a loving parent and also as a teacher is a tricky balance and yet, his gentle love and kindness comes through in a way that is simply marvelous. There aren’t a lot of anime in particular that I’ve seen give a major focus to parenting or the parent(s) in general on a realistic level and this show does a wonderful job of that, putting the dynamic of father-daughter at the forefront of its storytelling narrative.

It’s rare that a SOL just feels both the right amount of cute and realistic without being cringe-worthy in even the smallest sort of way, but Sweetness and Lightning manages to do that. The cooking sessions that Kohei and his daughter take up with a student from his school- Kotori Iida- wind up being a source of both life lessons, a sweet sense of friendship, and quite a few tasty -looking dishes. Everything moves with a rhythm and beat as the narrative follows father and daughter, through both joyous highs and unexpected lows, and as a result, each episode in some ways is as delicious to watch as the foods they’re named after.

Some of the more grounded aspects of the show comes from the fact that it’s also a seinen, but for this critic at least, it enhanced the overall show’s engaging potential and made it work on a level it might have not otherwise. Also to be lauded is a lack of fanservice as the narrative focus stayed squarely on a small, but concise cast of characters and their roles in the story that unfolds. While I could go on more about the details of Sweetness and Lightning here, the rest is better saved for the grading and for one’s own experience of one tasty anime


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, computer shaded. A bright show visually, the animation pops with the narrative, and in a show that heavily features cooking as a major part of its plot, food has to look good…and it does here! Character design is simple, but believable (as you can tell from this piece’s featured picture), and for this style of show, everything is extremely appealing. 4.75/5 points.
Characterization: As was talked about in my thoughts, Sweetness and Lightning revolves around the father-daughter pairing of Kohei and Tsumugi Inuzuka and in particular, the latter’s quest to make his daughter happy by cooking for her delicious homemade food.
I detailed information earlier about Kohei, but he’s a kind and caring father who is described as “plain looking” by more than one observer. A math teacher at a high school, it’s interesting to see the strain of working a full time job and caring for a young child can put on one person, but he handles it well, and mostly with a smile. He’s a responsible caregiver and a loving parent.

Tsumugi is an outgoing young girl, described as “adorable” by most observers between her bright perky face and gorgeous head of hair. She is a creative child with an active imagination, is extremely fond of an in-universe magical girl show that airs on TV, turns out to have a diverse palette for food (unless it’s green bell peppers), and loves her daddy very much. She’s the beating young heart of Sweetness and Lightning, and her boundless energy is infectious.

 

The one who initiates the idea of cooking sessions is Kotori- a student at Kohei’s high school where he works, and in fact one of his students. She loves good food as a result of growing up in and around her mother’s restaurant kitchen- but feels increasingly lonely as the latter so happens to make it big as a celebrity chef. The cooking lessons therefore become a source of bonding for the Inuzukas and Kotori, which also results in the side effect of improving culinary skills… A kind if somewhat shy girl, Kotori’s idea turns out to be the glue of a nice tale.

The rest of the cast is not that big, but there are solid supporting characters, chiefly Yagi- Kohei’s long time friend who works as a barkeep and cook at a restaurant, and Shinobu, Kotori’s best friend. It’s a sweet little cast where less is definitely more, and it comes together to form a cohesive cast. 4.25/5 points.

Story: Sweetness and Lightning is a “slice of life” meaning the overarching plot is more rooted the day to day routine of the characters, and in fact, takes on a much more “episodic-style” like many Western animated shows. It is a character-driven plot that revolves around those interpersonal dynamics, and as such, the actual substance of the show is in its cast, where everything else (setting, backdrops, etc) are more or less the foundation upon which that structure is built on. To that end, it works well: a cohesive narrative that keeps its premise clear and simple but also unique at the same time, and the execution is on point. 4.25/5 points.

Themes:  The story of a single father raising his daughter is one of committed parenthood, of friends and food, and of growing up for young Tsumugi. It’s a show that works on different levels for different viewers and I think that’s a beautiful dynamic to have in your theming. 4/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A sweet show with plenty of engaging interactions, a lack of fan-service and a family dynamic? Yes please! Add in the adorably catchy opening to this show and you’ve got a winner in terms of the intangibles. 5/5 points.

Overall: 22.25/25 (89%): Adapted from a manga, Sweetness and Lightning is a delightfully under-the-radar pick from 2016 that should not only find appeal with long-time anime fans, but with casual viewers as well. A warm emotional heart beats in this “slice of life,” as well as lot of really tasty meals (complete with recipes!) This pick is definitely worth a look for all ages.


Like what you see? Enjoyed Sweetness and Lightning or curious about the show? Leave a comment!

Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

July was a busy month, indeed. Despite that, a few weeks back I finally sat down and watched the final two Pixar films I hadn’t seen yet, and one of them was this film- a 2016 release that generally gets forgotten in the pile of excellent films that Pixar has produced over many years, and perhaps doubly so given that it was wedged in between a year with Inside Out (2015) and then last year’s animation standout in Coco (2017), which I also wrote about here. Let’s jump into it though!

 

The Lowdown:

Film: The Good Dinosaur

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2015

AniB’s thoughts:

What a pleasant film. As mentioned in my preface, this was one of only two Pixar films I hadn’t viewed yet (the other being Cars 3). However, I made an evening of the two and the result is the review you’re reading now.

The Good Dinosaur is a charming movie with a warm emotional heart. It’s not nearly as deep as some of Pixar’s finest films, but it still manages to hold its own between some absolutely breathtaking scenery, a very refreshing twist on the “if dinosaurs and humans coexisted” question that cinema has explored for as long as there’s been film reels, and a likable underdog in Arlo, an undersized sauropod whose story revolves around “making his mark”- in other words, growing into the dinosaur his parents think he can become and more.

It’s my prevailing thought that this film may have claimed the title of most overlooked Pixar film (over A Bug’s Life, which is a fine movie.) It’s got a nice mix of tragic and heartfelt in its narrative, and in some ways feels like a more nuanced version of Blue Sky’s Ice Age from many years back, particularly when it comes to the idea of the “road less traveled. To borrow a quote that I picked up from my undergrad work, “successful interpretation (in a story) is often like the weaving of a tapestry or [symbolized] by the arduous journey home.” Indeed, this idea is fully on display with Arlo: when he first travels away from his comfortable homestead his life is thrown into disarray and confusion, which also turns into a mission to prove his worth. Without trying to spoil too much, it’s when he’s farthest away from all he knew that he’s at his nadir, but the moment he takes his first steps back towards where he came from is the moment he really begins to grow. In that sense, this movie’s true beauty is not just the gorgeous reflection and clarity of 3-D water, or the vivid landscapes that can capture the imagination, but rather how this interesting thematic idea plays out in the animated medium, along with the true antagonist not necessarily being some certain hungry pterodactyls, but rather, a young dinosaur’s struggles along the path he takes with an unlikely new friend- Spot, a human boy.

As it stands, The Good Dinosaur makes for a fine movie night, especially as a family-friendly flick. There’s no doubt in my mind that the deeper thematic ideas will find some root with most people, while kids would love the antics of Arlo and Spot- a dynamic that works rather nicely and far more nuanced than I expected initially. While this film might never get the recognition of other Pixar fare- a safe assumption given the extraordinary stable of titles the studio has- it’s a very good movie worth a look.


Animation Quality: Pixar’s usual 3-D animation. As you’d expect, it looks superb in every sense of the word, and also typical with the studios’ films, it also incorporates that gorgeous art right into the storytelling. While the dinosaurs in the movie slant far more towards “cartoony” than “realistic” in their looks and proportions, it works well for the film. 5/5 points.

Characterization: As talked about, the main character of this tale is Arlo- a young sauropod who is the runt of the litter among his other two siblings on the farmstead his family keeps. Desperate to live up to the rest of his family and make “his mark,” Arlo’s adventure is one spring-boarded by both tragedy and fate.

His unlikely companion on that journey is “Spot”- a small human boy who in this alternate imagining of the world, acts far more like a wolf or a dog. He’s very agile, relatively fearless and is also shown to be rather caring as the movie progresses, fostering a cute, heartfelt relationship with his young dinosaur companion.

The rest of the film mostly features a supporting cast designed to frame Arlo’s journey, and they do so effectively, from his family to a couple T-Rex herders who essentially are cowboys. It works well, but ultimately the film’s main dynamic hinges on Arlo and Spot, and while simple, it comes together nicely.  3.75/5 points.

Story Quality: I’ve talked quite a bit about this already in my thoughts, but this movie’s about the journey and how one can “make their mark.” It’s relatively straightforward, especially compared to some of Pixar’s best film, but the execution of the idea is done very well and has a stronger emotional undertone than was expected. 3.75/5 points.

Themes: Tying directly into the story portion, this is in a very real sense a coming of age tale forged through unusual and trying circumstances. It’s also a tale of the proverbial “ugly duckling” finally taking wing and figuring out how to fly, or in Arlo’s case, stand on his own four feet as he navigates his adventure. Indeed, there are some influences from other places (and a certain event is almost certainly inspired by The Lion King), but this is a film with a good strong sense of its main thrust and it drives it home well. 3.5/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A very family-friendly film that has a good emotional heart and stellar animation as mentioned above is always a winner in the intangibles department. The music worked well enough, and it’s a clean watch without any sort of grievously objectionable material.  5/5 points.

 

Overall: 21/25 (84%): A very solid, underrated pick in Pixar’s robust stable of movies, The Good Dinosaur is a solid film that has universal appeal and solid messaging. It’s worth a quick pick as a watch option for a night.’


Like what you see? Are you a fan of The Good Dinosaur? Leave a comment!

 

Review: Noragami

The unusual story of a hobo god, his sword, and a girl.

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve gotten to write! Thanks to a summer course I’ve begun, my focus shifted away again from here, but I’m happy to report that I have some new material on the way, and this series is one of ’em. Initially released as an anime in 2014, this review covers both currently aired seasons of the show (titled “Noragami” and “Noragami Aragoto” respectively), and there’s apparently been speculation for a while about a potential 3rd season. Whatever the case may be there, the fact remains that the first two seasons exist, and that is the topic of this review!

The Lowdown:

Show: Noragami (season 1), Noragami Aragoto (season 2)

Studio/years aired: Bones, 2014 (season 1), 2015 (season 2)

AniB’s thoughts: Before I really delve into this review, a thought I’ve held onto for a while struck me again while covering this series: Man, I never quite like it when they split up seasons by different names and even different listings on your popular ranking sites (think MyAnimeList). It just makes things more confusing, in my own opinion, and while grading each season on its own is perfectly valid, for the purposes of this piece I would rather talk about the entire product as one show. So yes, Noragami  and Noragami Aragoto are simply season 1 and 2, or two anime cour as some call them.

As I mentioned in my preface, Noragami was a 2014 release (and presumably got buried under Kill la Kill hype at the time.) As an idea, it’s an interesting concept rooted in the Japanese tradition of shrines and different gods for different causes and wishes, and while this may be the case, this is hardly a religious show, but rather one of friendship, deep conflict, high stakes, and at the heart of it all is Yato- a minor deity without a shrine to call his own, with a shadowy past unexplained that slowly begins to come into focus as events unfold. Yato is an enigma at first- aloof and almost bum-like in his mannerisms; apparently quite difficult to get along with as he’s gone through a number of regalia- uncorrupted souls named by a god to be their holy weapons (more on that in the next paragraph), but as time goes on it’s revealed that he has a much more complex personality and understanding of the world around him, as well as an unsavory reputation as a “god of calamity”- meaning he is quite good at combat, if nothing else. Curiously though, he’s shown to take no pleasure when it comes to taking life, which is an odd contrast for a war god…

 

The master-regalia aspect immediately reminded me of Soul Eater’s meister-death weapon partnerships, but there are several important differences between a likely inspiration and the system employed in Noragami. For one, it is a deity in this universe that gives an un-corrupted soul a name as a bond, which is a “blessing and a curse,” as one certain character puts it, and somewhat similar to the Soul Eater relationship, both master and regalia must be perfectly in tune to perform at an optimal level. In fact, if the regalia acts out, or the master has some sort activity that makes then unclean, both can become “blighted”; a condition that left untreated will eventually kill the god and cause a regalia to transform into a phantom- corrupted spirits that take on monstrous forms, and which can only be rended by what else- a master and regalia.

There’s an interesting 3-wheel dynamic between the leads of this show in Yato, Hiyori Iki, the main female lead of the show, and Yukine, Yato’s young new Regalia. The former comes into contact with Hiyori through a certain incident that’s in the first episode of the show, and while initially she hounds Yato for a certain wish, she eventually does in fact become good friends with him, treasuring the relationship. The same goes for Yukine in relation to the other two, though how this all unfolds is the territory of spoilers. I’ll say this much: the young regalia has a pretty good character arc that unfolds for him in the context of the show. The supporting cast also plays major roles in different arcs of the show; each season has roughly two arcs in it, which develop the plot and the characters nicely.

 


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D computer-animation. As you’d expect, it looks quite good, and understandably so, given the studio (Bones). the animation certaintly helps illustrate the tension and world of the “supernatural within the ordinary” well in this show; the monstrous phantoms in particular were reminiscent  of some of the stranger, more disturbing scenes of 2018’s Devilman Crybaby, but actually worked well in the context of this show. There’s some minor fan-service mostly centered on Hiyori and another character, but it’s not terribly egregious in a way that truly detracts from the show. 4.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: As mentioned in my thoughts, there’s a triumvirate for the lead cast: Yato, the former war god-turned-attempted fortune god, Yukine, his Regalia that takes on the human form of a teenage boy, and Hiyori Iki, a teenage girl who becomes an half-ayakashi, or half spirit being upon a certain incident that this critic can’t help but think was a reference to the first episode of Yu Yu Hakusho

Yato as mentioned is a minor god, typically said to be a god of calamity in his past, but in the present, is doggedly in pursuit of his own shrine and a new reputation. While he seems outwardly narcissistic and uncaring at first, he’s shown in fact to be far more perceptive than people give credit for, and as the show unfolds, quite the opposite of those initial impressions. In particular, he grows a deep bond with Hiyori, which becomes a point of conflict given her unique status as “in-between” the human and spirit worlds, and Yukine.

The oft-mentioned regalia in this piece, Yukine takes the form of a katana when wielded by his master, known as “Sekki.” With the “Yuki” command he turns back into a teenage boy; while Yukine’s past is only surmised in a few panels, it’s implied he died of some tragic accident as a human… Yato saves his uncorrupted spirit by making him his regalia, and takes on a fatherly role that grows closer after a series of events. As a teenager, Yukine is prone to mood swings and often laments that he can’t do normal teenage things, and while this comprises a portion of his plot, it also helps explain why he befriends Hiyori Iki…

A regular, kind girl, Hiyori led a perfectly normal adolescent life until a chance encounter with Yato led to her becoming a half-human, half spirit being who could split from her body at any point, notably gaining a “tail” in the latter form, which actually signifies her link to the living world. As a result, Hiyori is able to see the gods and remember them whereas normal humans cannot, and gains some superhuman abilities in her spirit form. However, it leaves her corporeal body vulnerable, as she falls asleep as a human (which her friends believe is narcolepsy, unaware of her actual predicament.) She seeks to get rid of this status by making a wish to Yato, but later comes to treasure it as she befriends the god and his regalia, plus some others.

 

There’s a good supporting cast here with varying levels of importance, from Bishamon, the supreme god of war who holds a long-time grudge against Yato, to Tenjin, the god of learning who has an extensive shrine and who a former regalia of the latter’s went to; and Kofku and Daigoku, a god/regalia pairing who while eccentric, are friendly with Yato and take kindly to Yukine and Hiyori as well as allies. 3.75/5 points.

 

Story: The story revolves mostly around Yato and everyone else’s storyline sort of fits in neatly around that dynamic. It’s a bit complicated to explain, but it makes sense in context when you’re watching the show. This show is heavily character-driven, meaning the plots here are largely driven by character action as opposed to some other force, but it works overall, with each arc’s story demonstrating good tension and engaging climactic moments. It’s overall very good. 3.75/5 points.

 

Themes: There’s some heavily existential type questions in this show tied into the existence of one’s being, their place in the world, and perhaps also the concept of free will. How such topics are explored is part and parcel with the subject material of the show, which answers these questions in different ways and through different character arcs. It’s a very human sort of look into the deepest sort of fear we tend to experience, despite the supernatural and fictional settings/characters juxtaposed against the backdrop of modern Japan. 4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: There is definitely a lot of intensity in Noragami, from phantom slaying to very high stakes battles and all sorts of unusual problems. The show also features two absolute bangers for OPs, which are pretty catchy. Overall, a good presentation. 4.25/5 points.

 

Overall: 20.5/25 (82%): An interesting adaptation with a heavy Japanese cultural influence driving its story, Norgami delivers a solid, character driven narrative with plenty of emotional highs and lows, and a good balance between lighter, comedic moments and far more serious ones. It’s worth a look, and it remains to be seen if a third season is released (which if so, I’ll be sure to revisit this series!)


Like what you see? Enjoyed Noragami or are you curious? Leave a comment!

 

Today, AniB muses on blogging!

Some thoughts on the blogging experience so far.

Another off the cuff post…how unusual for me. Today though, I guess I’m going to do an introspective blog post, which is really unusual outside of the 10 Thoughts columns I’ve started doing regularly on Mondays. However, this is more about just blogging itself, which is honestly something I haven’t sat down and talked about at all in all my time doing writing on here. It’s been a hodgepodge of animation analysis, reviews, character pieces, the odd musing here and there, and hiatuses- but never actually about just the thought process and ideas of the writing that I’m doing at a given moment. So I figured I’d pull back the Wizard of Oz’s curtain a bit here, figuratively speaking, and speak candidly on where I’m at.

Dorothy and friends found an odd little man behind a curtain. The only thing you’ll find here are unfinished drafts, though.

Sometimes, I’m plumb out of ideas at a given moment. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have show reviews waiting to be done, or other ideas that won’t be written about, but occasionally, the current moment just doesn’t bear something I’d just love to write about at that particular time. Other people really thrive on this type of piece I’m doing now- the off the cuff, informal “stream of consciousness” type post which can make for some fairly entertaining reading, but considering my own goals for this place, I tend to gravitate towards hard analysis more often than not. To that, I hope people a) like such pieces as I keep going forward, and b) makes me curious if they want more of the informal type posts, especially as the focus here is as my tagline says- “exploring the world of animation with a fresh, fun, critical approach.” I’d also be curious if anyone would like to maybe collaborate on something at some point, but so far, it’s been mostly solo riding here, with a piece or two from a friend of mine who’s also invested in the success of this place.

Jet does his best impersonation of “The Thinker.”

Being a great writer, let alone a critic, is often a difficult and far more subjective sort of analysis than I’d like to admit. I’m obsessed with adding an objective lens to something in my work, but also acknowledge that despite having a unique grading system, my opinions are still that- opinions, though I try to make sure they’re solid (and hopefully good) ones at that. The review system I put in place was always intended to be the backbone on which everything else grew out from on this site, and it’s been really interesting to look back on what is now 36 show reviews and 3 movie reviews at the time of this writing (and I have a lot of shows just waiting in the wings for a more detailed treatment, trust me.) Sometimes, the highly variable amount of views I get on these can be really exciting or a bit disappointing (and I’m still waiting for a post to finally get 10 likes, the most I’ve ever gotten is 9, RIP), but at this point the most important aspect is that a consistent quality is maintained, regardless of whether a piece has racked up over 1,500 views, or less than 25, and that you, the readers, enjoy the content. Regardless of what I do on here, the audience is always the most important aspect of how my approach is continually shaped, because the sort of feedback I get can also help me structure how I’d like to approach my content now and in the future. There’s only one thing that’s worse than being a bad writer, and that’s being boring. (If you really like bad and boring writing, you probably like reading tax forms.)

Nagisa is here to assassinate “boring.” This also is an excuse to use an image in those sweet 3-E uniforms.

I picked up doing character analysis writing first as a good idea to expand my content, but was later surprised at the general popularity of these types of pieces as I went forward. They’re intense, but fun to write- you have to encapsulate a character perfectly in a concise sort of manner, and it requires quite a bit of time actually watching that character in action from a given show in order to write a good one. I think back often to the first one I did on Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender in the first months of my time blogging on here, and it remains ironically popular with daily hits despite the fact that it was probably my worst one (and I figured out analyzing in chronological order of events wasn’t necessarily the best way to go- you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, but you probably like going through different attributes tied into certain moments.) It was also my goal with those going forward to always choose a) characters that actually merited being written about (so they had to have a pretty good reason for a big spread), b) characters I wanted to read about (so if I was reading my own blog, what sort of characters would I really want reading material on?) and c) characters you guys want to see, if the demand rises. This was definitely the case with at least one of the characters I covered. Overall, all three of these general criteria I set for myself are equally relevant, but what really matters is if people enjoyed what they read, and if they leave a nice and/or thoughtful comment. Which leads me to my other major point…

Deku’s mumble storms are me when I’ve got an idea rolling along.

Discourse and dialogue is a big goal of mine. Animation is a medium that needs a wider legitimacy among the masses, because it is a serious form that can tell amazing stories in a very unique way. Sitting down to write about then requires keeping this sort of goal in mind, among many other aspects that are considered, because while I know people who love anime or Western animation, or Pixar animation, or something from Bones will obviously be the core audience of what I do, I’m always thinking about the random stranger who stumbles upon this place. The hope is that they can be transported on a new journey to somewhere they never quite imagined existed, in the best of ways, and perhaps discover something that piques their interest. And for the staunch animation fan, I hope the writing I do sparks dialogue, inspires your own thoughts and writing, if you are in fact a blogger as well, and makes you think a little bit more about the medium as you carry along enjoying it. For everyone involved though, it’s always the best when someone discovers a show they never explored because of a review, or maybe gained a greater appreciation of some aspect of something they didn’t think about, or even if they disagree and eloquently tell me as much. It’s all part of the writing process, but also the realm of animation discourse that needs to happen, and it’s very exciting.

So that’s a little look into how this endeavor of blogging is going for me! It’s been a lot of fun, quite a bit of work, but always worthwhile. I’m always keeping in mind a bigger picture, but I’m enjoying every little step of the journey as it unfolds, and it’s thanks to readers like yourselves! Here’s to a lot more great things to come,

-AniB


Like what you see? Have a thought you’d like to say? Leave a comment!

 

10 Thoughts: Week of June 25th

AniB goes to the movies, watches some anime, and stumps for the hometown hockey team. (Beware of T-Rexes!)

In this week’s 10 Thoughts, AniB takes a look at the movies, the usual look at this past week’s My Hero Academia episode, and as usual, a few other musings.

 

1.One of the issues with going to see animated films at the cinema is that you never know what kind of previews you’ll be forced to sit through. As the general audience is expected to be younger, you usually get a grab-bag of animated fare with promise, some ghastly looking premises, and the occasionally amazing-looking film. In the end though, it’s mostly exciting just to get to the movie you came to see…

2. …so in that vein, The Teen Titans Go! preview looks every bit as awful as I suspected it would. Memo to Cartoon Network: it’s your #1 show because you guys pushed into roughly 95% of your available time-slots. It’s not hard to make something the de-facto top show when it’s the only game in town, and if I had access, I’d like to see the numbers of their rarely other-aired shows extrapolated over the same time, or rather, TTG’s number’s averaged together for every viewing at the same rate of something else. I bet things don’t add up, and this film isn’t going to move a lot of people at all outside the 7-12 boys demographic (and their parents.) Mark my words on that.

3. Since this is a movie-centric 10 Thoughts so far, Incredibles 2 is definitely the clubhouse leader when it comes to to the animation award at the Academies so far. Going back to what I said a week ago (at the time of this writing) in a prior column, I’d be willing to bet even now it’s the odds-on favorite regardless of what Wreck-It Ralph 2 does as a sequel later this year, unless it’s absolutely stunning in a way no one saw coming. (Before anyone references Spirited Away or Wallace and Gromit, a friendly reminder that those awards were in 2002 and 2005 respectively- and the rules got worse for foreign films aside from the long drought. So I’m not holding my breath.)

4. One last movie thought, non-animated: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is definitely a popcorn-munching film, but from a purely critical standpoint, something about it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the franchise’s revival song in Jurassic World. Maybe (spoilers!) it’s because weaponized dinos is such a silly premise with a fancy coat of paint over it that I can’t take it seriously. But then again, anything Jurassic Park or World related requires a suspension of disbelief, and from my experience, an IMAX screen if you’re actually living near a theater that has one. Something about dinosaurs on the biggest screen makes it that much better.

5. Alright, I’m sure you want some anime thoughts now to balance things out, and that begins with this past week’s My Hero Academia, which more or less capped off a big turning point for the series, without spoiling too much of anything. I’ll say this: Izuku’s mom is a really loving person who truly has her son’s best interests at heart, and that should be lauded.

 

6. Continuing on with Hero Academia , it was killing me not to include manga spoilers about Izuku Midoriya in this past week’s character piece.That said, he’s a really good example of a shonen protagonist done right, and has definitely become a favorite character of mine since I first picked up the series.

 

7. I’ve been reading the One Piece manga for a little while, on and off, which is absolutely terrific. However, it is somewhat of a daunting proposition even just covering the Shonen Jump publication from the start, so don’t expect me to talk about the anime (or it various filler arcs) on here, since it’s simply too darn long to actually pick up and watch to the current point. That said… the manga is truly wonderful. I recommend it if you haven’t touched the series.

 

8. On a non-shonen note, picked up the first five episodes of Welcome to the NHK. What a weird, darkly humorous show so far, which is just odd enough to be intriguing without being a total turn-off. Hard balance to achieve, definitely…and this is one I’d like to see through to the end in due time.

 

9.   I’m planning to review a show again this week, but what that is yet isn’t even clear to me at this point. I’ve got a few pretty good ideas of what to go over though, and it might just be a Western show. Also, did anyone notice I finally added a “Movie Reviews” tab to the main site’s page? I’ve got three of ’em now, so the time seemed right…and while the focus here is still going to be primarily on shows, I’m open to animated film suggestions as well.

10. Finally, in one other non-animated thought, the Buffalo Sabres (my hockey team!) finally drafted Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedish wunderkind defensemen, this past Friday with the top overall pick. While I doubt most, if any of my readers, have a vested interest heavily in sports, it’s a big thing for the city and the hopeful continued resurgence of a massive turnaround in the pro franchises’ fortune of Buffalo, coming on the heels of a Bills playoff berth this past January. So coming back around, I suppose my question for the week is “what sports team do you root for, if any; and if not, could you recommend a sports show or movie you might have liked?” (I suspect I might get some Draft Day and Hoosiers comments if I say nothing…or just sports anime. Either way, fine by me!)


Like what you see? Any thoughts on the question of the week, or any other suggestions about things you’d like me to write about? Leave a comment!

What’s In A Character: Izuku Midoriya

All Might’s chosen successor and the future ‘Symbol of Peace.’ Who is My Hero Academia’s leading man?

To keep the ball rolling on this series, and perhaps inspired in part by the previous two entries in the series that addressed characters who also were students, we now jump from Class 3-E and Nagisa to a class expected to be the elites of hero society- U.A. Academy’s Class 1-A, considered the best and brightest in Japan, with the burden of expectation that they can become the next great generation of society’s protectors. And who better to talk about then the main focus of the entire series in Izuku Midoriya, hero name “Deku”?

(SPOILERS for the My Hero Academia anime follow. This will not cover events that are still manga-only.)

In an unusual twist for the “What’s In a Character” series, Deku’s a character that is still very much a work in progress as his series is ongoing. However, there has been enough material about him at this point to start writing something compelling about his character, especially in the context of his very important role: that of the shonen protagonist.

 

Izuku Midoriya is compelling in both his earnestness and plainness. Nothing about him screams “leading hero” immediately, but everything about him does yell back “likable!” His younger self is simply precious (Little Deku!) and his current incarnation is simply pleasant, with expressive eyes, messy dark hair and freckles that seem to complement his aesthetic in a pleasant manner. Matched with his appropriately kind manner, he feels like a comfortable old friend you’d root for and you get the sense you’ve seen this type of kid before in some other show, but maybe not cast as the main hero. And yet, it comes together splendidly not only because Midoriya proves to be a natural rooting interest, he’s also genuinely interesting beyond his looks. (Sorry, Kirito.)

“Stay out of my way, Deku! I’m going to be the #1 hero, so you better give up now!”- Katsuki Bakugo

In that vein, Midoriya’s contrasting appearance is notable with that of Katsuki Bakugo, his childhood “friend” turned archrival. There are several thematic subversions that can be observed between the two, starting with the color of their hair. Traditionally, blonds are seen in fiction as “chosen ones” or “prince charmings” or something of that nature. Bakugou certainly believes he’s the latter, but he’s also no gentleman. Deku’s dark hair suggests a fairly unremarkable character with no particularly interesting fate. Furthermore, to reinforce this thematic idea is that All Might himself has blond hair- and is a realized version of that great promise and potential fulfilled. In fact, the show makes it very clear from the start that Midoriya’s desire is not enough to overcome the obvious disadvantage of being Quirkless, or simply lacking the talent to match how motivated he might be.

A curious note to the Midoriya-Bakugo dynamic is actually the perception of the two from their classmates in junior high versus how they’re viewed at U.A. Midoriya, for the first time in his life, finds himself quite popular among his U.A. classmates for both his earnest, kind nature, incredible resolve and detailed planning (though his mumble storms with the latter tend to backfire a bit for people.) Bakugo on the other hand, after being the king of the hill in high school, finds a similar position at UA with his talent, but not nearly the same kind of admiration at first due to his abrasive nature and generally angry tendencies. However, both Midoriya and Bakugo gain respect from their fellow classmates as the events of the story unfold, and the rivalry continues to bloom, with the explosive power of two rising heroes very much on two sides of the same coin, with two very different approaches yielding them results.

Perhaps this simultaneous difference and similarity in approaches was never fully on display than when the rivals were forced to work together in passing their first semester practical exam, where they approached the difficult task of having to hand-cuff or escape through a designated gate from All Might (“Katsuki Bakugo: Origin,” season 2, episode 23). Forced into a situation where their clashing philosophies and individual strategies did nothing but put them at a disadvantage, it was here that both young men put everything on the line- even their rivalry for a brief moment- and came together to achieve a goal against the very man they aspired to be like in their own ways.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Bakugo was the one to inspire the hero name of “Deku.” Literally playing off the meaning of “do/can’t do” in Japanese, he uses the nickname as a way of taunting Midoriya, reminding him that he won’t amount to anything. However, when the latter meets Ochaco Uraraka, she actually tells him that “Deku” was a great name, giving off the vibe “of a hero that can do anything!” And so, with a renewed outlook, Midoriya embraced the name, something which truly infuriated his rival considering the original intent.

“I AM HERE!”- All Might

Of course, no self-respecting Deku piece would be complete without some discussion about his relationship with the “Symbol of Peace” himself- All Might. The chance encounter in which Deku was saved from the slime villain in season 1, episode 1 turned into an emotional ride in just two short episodes as the mighty hero was revealed to have a surprising and crippling weakness (Superman, he is not), and the fanboy with nothing more than dreams stepped up and inspired him in the most unlikely of ways. Part of what makes this dynamic so interesting is that Midoriya isn’t from some special bloodline, crazy backstory or mythical family ties- he’s just an ordinary kid who with luck and circumstance, combined with unlikely action, won the lottery to begin the unlikeliest of underdog stories just as society’s greatest success story was about to hit his twilight (All Might.) The fact that All Might then followed it up by making Deku train through “10 months of hell” reinforced that even receiving the gift of “One For All” was an obstacle in itself, not to be taken lightly. As the world’s #1 then transitioned to be a U.A. teacher, it was obvious that while he wished for Deku to grow into his role, he also needed to be more engaged in training his successor than he already was- a fact that was exposed by retired hero Gran Torino during Midoriya’s internship when he was the first to help Deku’s power be controlled properly. This breakthrough was juxtaposed against All Might’s professional duties as a hero and more importantly, an educator who had to give focus to all the promising kids under his tutelage, suggesting the underlying strain that came with being the so-called “Symbol of Peace.”

 

 

“This is a Quirk passed on from generation to generation. Are you prepared to carry on ‘The Symbol of Peace?'”- Toshinori Yagi, to an overwhelmed Midoriya

One For All as a Quirk in My Hero Academia isn’t just an incredible power, but also a narrative framing device for all of Midoriya’s actions once he earns the right to hold that flame. The old saying “with great power comes great responsibility” rings truer and truer as Midoriya continues to slowly get stronger, eventually gaining a small level of control over his amazingly powerful Quirk- while All Might grows weaker, highlighting that Deku’s control of his power is actually on a clock- a race against time only intensified by the emergent League of Villains and an anti-Deku figure- Tomura Shigaraki, whose relationship to the mysterious All For One is a bizarre inverse of Midoriya’s chance All Might encounter. For Deku and Tomura, both have been given a path to change the world- but whose path will shape the future is now an increasingly tenuous question as the series continues on. Indeed, everything comes to a head when All Might and All For One engage in their long-foreshadowed rematch, and it is at this moment that both sides officially pass the torch on to their fated successors- as All Might fights and wins with the dying embers of his Quirk, and All For One’s defeat leads to his arrest by the authorities, moving both men out of the picture as events move forward.

 

Deku’s steady but slow growth in learning to control his Quirk occurs at a believable pace within the framework of the story. In a well-done twist, he first has to train his body to receive One For All, but upon gaining it from All Might, he’s able to tap all that power-but incurs a serious cost on himself. After literally breaking himself on a number of occasions, he gradually begins to learn how to control the powerful Quirk he was gifted after the aforementioned training internship with Gran Torino. While it’s my intention to not dive into manga spoilers for the anime-only viewers, Deku’s power continues to develop concurrently with his own self-discovery of his own style. What Midoriya comes to realize is that while striving to be the #1 hero is is goal, he’ll have to be his own man in doing so- and making One For All his own Quirk, rather than mere imitation of his mentor and idol proves to be an extension of that important lesson.

 

“Come at me with everything you’ve got!”- Izuku Midoriya, issuing a challenge to Shoto Todoroki at the U.A. Sports Festival

 

Undeniable yet still is Midoriya’s effect on those around him not named All Might or Bakugou. He manages to start making a skeptical Aizawa a believer in his power with a simple ball toss test (“What I Can Do For Now”, season 1, Episode 5), is the first to draw out Todoroki’s fire side during the U.A. Sports Festival (and in turn, trigger a healing process for that boy; “Shoto Todoroki: Origin”, season 2, episode 10), and even shows the so-called “Hero Killer” Stain enough resolve and conviction that the villain, despite being recently beat by Deku, Todoroki and Tenya Iida, has enough tenacity to save his enemy’s life when he is snatched by a Noumu. (“Climax,” season 2, episode 17). It is also Midoriya’s example that inspires a small group of his fellow classmates in the daring rescue attempt of Bakugou after the League of Villain’s successful infiltration of the summer camp, and prior to that, he becomes an embittered young boy’s (Kota) hero in a life-risking battle versus the villain Muscular (“My Hero,” season 3, episode 4.) It is examples like these that in individuals ways, show just why Midoriya was given One For All, as he’s shown a profound ability beyond merely powerful punches and kicks to change hearts and minds, backed by his own conviction in his ideals.

While Midoriya’s story isn’t yet finished, the fundamentals of his character shine through even as important plot points and scenarios shift in the narrative flow of My Hero Academia. There is little doubt that even as Midoriya continues to grow gradually into the massive shoes of his idol and successor, his underdog path, coupled with his conncious choice of hero name (“Deku”) and his vow to “keep a smile on my face, just like All Might,” will serve him well and keep a consistency to the character that has already been established in the series. He might not have the completed story of his rise from hero otaku to top hero, but with a well-crafted fundamental build as a compelling protagonist, the ride continues to promise a lot of enjoyable moments and steady growth as the series continues on with more depth. On a final note though:

Little Deku is already the best. Truly adorable.


Like what you see? Big fan of My Hero Academia or Deku? Leave a comment!